GREENVILLE, SC (FOX Carolina) – On Thursday, a judge denied motions to exclude certain testimony from the trial of suspended sheriff Will Lewis, set to begin next week.
At Wednesday's hearing, the prosecution argued that, regardless of where Lewis' crimes were committed, his conduct violated the trust of the public in Greenville. This included alleged sexual harassment of his former assistant, Savannah Nabors. Documents previously obtained by FOX Carolina show both Greenville County and the state of South Carolina paid Nabors nearly $200,000 in settlement money.
During the hearing, prosecutors laid out a timeline and more specifics regarding what happened between Lewis and Nabors. The state said the alleged abuse of power transpired over a period of 9 to 10 months. Prosecutors say Lewis and Nabors had a relationship before Lewis took office, and started working under Lewis as a lieutenant with a starting salary of $62,000.
She was granted a new Ford Explorer, parking space, new cell phone, and laptop, along with access to the firing range. Under his employment, prosecutors said she enjoyed the perks and privileges of working at GCSO. There was also a time when Lewis took Nabors to see her dad in the hospital, and along the way asked her a series of personal questions.
The prosecution went on to describe an incident that happened in Charlotte during March 2018. According to this recollection, Nabors and Lewis were in the city for a budgetary meeting along with other county administrators.
Lewis brought liquor along for the trip and stored in a hotel room, and prosecutors say they went to the hotel's bar and a nearby Irish pub for drinks. Both Nabors and Lewis then returned to the hotel later in the night, and talked late into the evening in his room.
It was during this conversation Lewis first talked about his marriage issues to Nabors, but she attempted to deflect and end the conversation. It's at this point that the prosecution alleges Lewis moved over to her, put arms around her, and kissed Nabors. She claims she blacked out, and when she woke up found Lewis on top of her.
Afterward, the prosecution claims Lewis told Nabors "what happens in Charlotte stays in Charlotte," and that he didn't tell his wife Nabors had traveled.
Prosecutors go on to say over the next few weeks, Lewis tried to talk with Nabors, but she tried to establish boundaries. This resulted with alleged retaliation at work with punishment, and Nabors claimed she felt Lewis was following her. The prosecution also described an incident where Lewis reportedly loaned Nabors a pressure washer and wanted to get it back.
Nabors claims she arranged for a neighbor to meet him in her garage. However, she went to a nearby Chick-fil-A, and when he called to ask her where she was, Nabors says she told him, and saw him in her rear view mirror in her car.
Tape recordings of phone conversations between Nabors and Lewis indicate hostilities between the two escalated after the Charlotte incident, this time as Lewis prepared for a trip to Reno, Nevada. Lewis claimed in these tapes that Greenville County wouldn't pay for two hotel rooms for this visit, and Lewis asked if them sharing a room was a bad idea. Nabors cautioned against it, warning about public reaction if the shared room detail was released to the public. Lewis tried to reassure her, but Nabors fires back, saying "I'm sure that's what Bill Clinton said too," referring to Clinton's own sex scandal during his time as president.
The second tape played at the hearing showed more escalated tensions between the two. Nabors tells Lewis sharing the room is risky, especially considering other county employees would be part of this trip. Toward the end of the tape, Nabors alleges Lewis could have a close friendship with no sexual contact, but that there was an expectation of sex with Nabors and Lewis while in Reno. They then start going back and forth about who started the relationship, with Lewis saying "If things change, then I'm not going to take you places, Savannah."
After the tapes concluded, the prosecution claimed Savannah was in tears at the end of the conversation and didn't go into work the next day. What followed in the next several days, per the prosecution, was a series of phone calls that involved manipulation on Lewis' end. Prosecutors then say Lewis told Nabors she would be terminated, but Nabors ended up leaving GCSO.
Prosecutors also note she spoke with a lawyer and sued Lewis in civil court, where she received the six-figure settlement. Nabors initially alleged rape from the incident in Charlotte, but Lewis' own voluntary decision to engage a sexual connection qualified as adultery on his end.
The prosecution said of the recordings "The tapes are damning evidence and the jury needs to understand what this trip to Reno meant to her."
Lewis' defense team fired back, saying the Charlotte trip was not a misuse of funds and compared what happened to going on a trip and having relations with a stranger Lewis met in a bar. According to attorney Wise, he said what happened did not sound like rape because Nabors said on the record she didn't realize she was raped until two months later, after attending therapy sessions. Wise then posited this question to the judge: “Is this evidence even credible enough to get to jury your honor?”
The prosecution, however, claims the funds for meals were provided by the state of South Carolina. When the defense said there was no evidence that Nabors' drinks were drugged, the prosecution said there will be no suggestions that she was drugged.
At the conclusion of the hearing, the defense asked that the evidence of the Charlotte incident be excluded from his trial due to it being out of Greenville's jurisdiction. However, the judge said he would come back on Thursday with a decision.
Solicitor Kevin Brackett said the trial will begin on October 21.
PREVIOUS COVERAGE –